Early on, before hierarchical directories were considered, MSDOS (or was
it it in CP/M already?) adopted the VMS style of modifying commands with
slashes; e.g. DIR lists files in a single column and DIR/W ("wide") uses
multiple columns. But that meant that slashes could not be used,
Unix-style, to punctuate directories. Understandably MS did not adopt
VMS's ugly directory syntax, but it could have used colons as in MacOS.

Nicholas Bodley wrote:
> Apparently, most Americans (maybe including Canadians) are extremely
> confused about which is a backslash and which is a forward slash.

I haven't noticed that, though the masses do seem to have forgotten that
the "forward" slash was once called merely "slash".

> There
> must be some significant number of instances of the likes of "2\3" for
> "2/3"; iirc, the backslosh actually did have a special meaning in such a
> context; it was a variant of division, possibly modular arithmetic.

"The backslash symbol \ is used to denote a set difference, quotient
group, or integer division."

By "integer division" is meant m\n = floor(m/n).

> . . . Btw, the
> BBC always uses the expression "forward slash" when speaking URLs.

Anton Sherwood, http://www.ogre.nu/
"How'd ya like to climb this high *without* no mountain?" --Porky Pine